Substance Disorder for the Aboriginal People

Family-Centred Therapy on Substance Disorder for the Aboriginal People

The health status of aboriginal people is strongly intertwined with their cultural practices. Keeping focus on cultural issues is helpful when handling policy issues that relate to the concerns of the Aboriginal people. According to their beliefs and practices, the health of an individual encapsulates the whole being. It relates to physical, emotional, spiritual and mental aspects of the individual. Consequently, assessment of the health needs of these people must be hinged to all the dimensions mentioned above. In the recent past, there has been a general acceptance of the unique identities manifested by the diverse groups of aboriginal communities. Experts, now, agree that cultural addiction strategies are the most effective when dealing with the Aborigines. Health programming strategies that are in line with appropriate cultural practices. Such health programming facilitates holistic frames for taking care of needs, strength, opportunities and alternatives in the healing process (Rapske, n.d).

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Cultural competencies may be measured in terms of the ability to work with a focus that fully recognizes the crucial importance of identity and culture among the aborigines and the Torres Strait Islander people and the potential capacity to inculcate cultural values in the promotion of emotional and social well-being. The success of non-indigenous organizations in rendering services among the above communities is determined by their ability to establish mutual respect, understanding, collaboration and friendly partnerships with these communities. Cultural safety refers to a working environment that everyone feels secure and has no incidents of assault, denying of one’s identity or other similar challenges. The elements mentioned above, i.e. mutual respect, sharing knowledge, partnerships, shared learning experiences and shared meaning cannot be underestimated in the bid to encourage the aboriginal and Torres Straight communities to seek for medical assistance (NADA, 2012). The lives of Torres Straight and aboriginal communities are tied closely to family and community. Consequently, care givers must consider involving these units of the people’s lives if they wish to fast track the integration process and encourage these communities to make such care services part of their lifestyle, and in particular when dealing with issues of substance abuse (NADA, 2012).

Family intervention strategies are a set of clinical approaches designed for working with family units that have specified supportive, treatment or educational function and incorporate solving problems, management of crisis, and clinical treatments. Psycho-education is an example of professionally led evidence-based practice (Family Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force, 2015).

Guiding Principles

The following list of principles and guidelines can assist practitioners to obtain better results when working with Torres Straight and aboriginal people. Service and systems workers should:

Openly recognize the importance of community and family contexts in granting support and services to adults, children, youth and infants. Families with close bonds such as interest, geographical proximity or other shared values are considered especially important because they play a critical role in fostering the well-being of the family members by providing support services to others in the community as directed and inspired by these groups.

Work in team mode with each other and the communities to cite and promote family and individual resilience and moderate their vulnerabilities in the span of life of these people, the lifecycle of family relationships and several generations that succeed earlier ones.

Collaborate effectively in a bid to guarantee, well-being, safety and better health for the individuals and families. The teams should also keep close focus on infants, youth, children and all vulnerable people including adults in volatile or generally unstable circumstances.

The teams of health care givers should also cooperate in delivering acceptable quality service to families battling with mental health and substance abuse challenges whenever and wherever they are needed. Such services include promotion of health, prevention by intervening early, reducing harm, treatment, general care and recovery. These methods are based on empirical evidence and, they are appropriate in terms of their development and fashion of rendering across and within systems.

Be capable of handling concurrent disorders and still bear the requisite skills to recognize and treat and or support the people affected. They should be able to handle people with complex mental complications, disorders related to substance abuse and medical complications that manifest simultaneously. They should embrace the need for sharing information and consulting across provinces, including training clinicians and rendering of practice that is driven by evidence.

They should also continuously engage families on the issue of family services and support systems. Such family-based support services are designed to be non-judgemental and culturally safe. They are based on the diversity and richness of the experience of the concerned families. They allow for the full voluntary and committed participation by members of the family.

The health care givers should also pursue knowledge exchange strategies through working with communities and families and other service providers, research teams and individuals to generate, and disseminate new bodies of knowledge and integrate new evidence-based practice approaches. Some more sources of knowledge include actual practice, research, cultural teachings and even the lessons from experiences lived.

They should also concentrate on collaboration in the process of service delivery. When families work together they contribute to the health improvement and general well-being of its members including making informed choices about abuse of substances.

They should also pursue human rights based approach that takes cognizance of major structural, legal and barriers that have to do with attitude in the health of the focus families and communities that have issues to do with mental health and substance abuse. They should be at the forefront in promoting the establishment of laws that safeguard the rights of such victims of mental illness or substance abuse.

Understand privacy and confidentiality needs based on legal frameworks that determine service delivery approaches with an aim of obtaining the best results for the affected families. Initiate accountability in collaboration with families. These should:

Evaluate performance metrics and define them

Develop a body of meaningful, precise and reliable knowledge

Celebrate and replicate success

Moderate responses of the system based on feedback and learning

Reorganize professional discourse in mental health and substance usage (Family Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force, 2015)

The family based approaches mentioned seek to include participation by members of families affected as much as possible. These decisions are made in close consultations with family and due consideration to their preferences. Family centred approaches focuses on the family needs and the needs of individual members. Family centred approaches are inspired by the need to promote and enhance the well-being and comprehensive health of families and individual members. The method keeps evolving as the families and individuals change over time. The central objective is to give continuous support. Family support incorporates many elements that help to enhance the understanding of the need to accept help and boost the overall health and well-being of the participants. It includes education to dispel myths around substance abuse and mental health, and empower these families and communities with evidence-based practice that will improve their health. Family centred approaches are sensitive to the safety and confidentiality concerns of the target individuals and that of the entire family. There is a conspicuous and deliberate effort to use language that reflects the cultural aspirations and practice of the communities (Family Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force, 2015; Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1999).


Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (NADA) (2012). WORKING WITH DIVERSITY IN ALCOHOL & OTHER DRUG SETTINGS. Retrieved 26 June 2016 from

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Brief interventions and brief therapies for substance abuse.

Family Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force (2015). Families at the Center: Reducing the Impact of Mental Health and Substance Use Problems on Families. Retrieved 26 June 2016 from

Rapske D. L. (n.d.). Substance Abuse Treatment for Aboriginal Youth: Should Drug and Alcohol Interventions for First Nations Youth be Subsumed Exclusively Under Harm Reduction Frameworks? A Critical Policy Review

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